4
THE ARGUMENT FOR GENDER
ESSENTIALISM

I THINK THAT GENDER is uniessential to social individuals, and in this chapter I will argue for this claim. In the preceding chapters I explained the terms that I use in stating my position. The notion of essentialism I focus upon is uniessentialism, which is the view that its essence unifies a heap of parts into a new individual. For example, the functional essence of a house unifies the parts of the house so that a new individual exists over and above the sum of house parts. I define gender in terms of the different engendering functions of men and women. The engendering functions that define the social positions of being a woman and being a man have associated social roles. A man has one set of norms defining his appropriate engendering activities, which anchor a broader set of gender appropriate norms, and a woman has another set of norms governing her engendering function, and her other social activities. The content of these norms—or social roles—are culturally and historically variable. Finally, a social individual is a social position occupier; one social individual might be a doctor, a parent, and an immigrant at the same time (or, alternatively, over time). Social individuals are agents who are capable of intentional behavior, are capable of entertaining goals (singly and in groups) and figuring out how to achieve them, and who act from a standpoint or perspective.1 Finally, I argued in chapter 3 that

1. Not all social positions imply agency. See chapter 3, fn. 13.

-75-

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The Metaphysics of Gender
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface- Why Gender Essentialism? xi
  • 1- Two Notions of Essence 3
  • 2- Gender and Social Normativity 27
  • 3- Human Organisms, Social Individuals, and Persons 51
  • 4- The Argument for Gender Essentialism 75
  • 5- The Person, the Social Individual, and the Self 107
  • Epilogue- Gender Essentialism and Feminist Politics 127
  • Select Bibliography 133
  • Index 141
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